Insider: Odds and Ends

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Happy June! I usually prefer to have a theme for my articles, but today I have a few smaller topics to address. There’s lot going on in the world of Magic: The Gathering and much of it is financially relevant. So let’s get into it.

Standard Rotation

It’s June now, which means we’re beginning to see the price floor on Standard cards from Theros block. The time to buy is in the next two to three months, and the time to sell (in general) will be immediately after the release of the fall set, Khans of Tarkir.

We’ll be finding out more information about Khans at San Diego Comic Con, which is in July. I’ll be watching for any hints at that panel which may indicate how next year’s Standard environment will shape up.

Any hints that mono-color will be a theme or that aggro will be strong in the new meta will be useful information to guide purchasing decisions. In the meantime, picking up generally powerful and underpriced playables from Theros block (as I’ve gone over in recent articles) continues to be the play.


Conspiracy seems to be a cube drafter’s dream, and I’m looking forward to picking up all kinds of goodies to add to my list. However, I’m looking to do this through drafting the set and making trades. Preordering anything here seems ambitious, as many of the cards in the set are good only in Cube, a one-of format that doesn’t create as much demand as competitive formats or its more popular casual counterpart, Commander.

There are some rather sweet reprints in this set, though, and it’s worth keeping an eye on their prices, as picking up copies at their floors should be profitable.

Both Altar of Dementia and Stifle have grown in price in the last year and should see some of that growth reverse once new copies start hitting the market. This is Stifle’s first non-foil printing in the soon-to-not-be-modern frame (and remember, strange as it may seem, some people dislike foils—I’m one of them), and Altar of Dementia hasn’t been printed since Tempest, meaning no foils nor current frames until now.

The list of sweet older cards goes on and on. Pernicious Deed, Mirari's Wake, Exploration, Reflecting Pool, Swords to Plowshares, Misdirection, Brainstorm, and Edric, Spymaster of Trest are some of the ones I’m most excited to see in the set. Many of these have never before been seen in foil, the eighth-edition frame, or both. I may not like to play with or collect foils, but I sure like them as trade bait, and some of these will demand a great price.

As for the new cards: these are casual cards. They’re mostly preselling for laughably high prices, and the fact is that you don’t need anything from the set to be competitive in Legacy or Vintage at this point, whether or not there are playable cards in the bunch. Do you think Dack Fayden will continue to be priced at $60 from Vintage demand alone? This seems less than unlikely—it seems impossible.

My plan is to keep a close eye on the big hits for the casual crowd. Assuming the multiplayer draft format is popular enough to see drafts fire consistently, and also assuming that demand will be met (and there’s certainly mixed reports on whether or not that will be the case), cards should drop steadily as the set is drafted more and more, likely up until the release of M15. At that point, prices will have leveled out at their lows and we can look at buying in.

Commander 2013

Speaking of cards leveling out at their lows, Commander 2013 cards seem underpriced across the board. Now that these decks are becoming rarer on store shelves, we may have reached a price floor, and I expect an ascent during the coming year.

Perhaps due to doubling the number of Mind Seize on the market, True-Name Nemesis has fallen from the most expensive card in the set to—well, still the most expensive card in the set. But its price has been cut in half from its high of over $40, with some copies available on TCGplayer at less than $20.

Assuming no ban in Legacy, I’d be surprised if this didn’t reach back to its previous price within the next six months to a year. At the very least, I think it’s time to pick up a copy for my cube.

Two other cards were proclaimed “Legacy playable” when this set was released, but never really performed the way TNN did. Toxic Deluge ($10) and Unexpectedly Absent ($5) have both fallen considerably from their highs, and if these do ever make an impact on the format, this will look like a great buy-in price. However, the fact that this hasn’t happened yet makes me wonder if these have further to drop. I’m leaning toward the latter possibility for now.

If Sol Ring ($4) and Command Tower ($1.50) are annual reprints in the now-yearly Commander decks, these are no longer worth buying or holding. However, I believe it’s much more likely that Wizards will want to vary the types of cards being printed in these decks and will move on to other staples.

It’s too risky to go deep on these, but I think trading at these prices is a safe play. It’s hard to imagine Sol Ring at less than $4, even if it is an annual reprint.

Go to TCGplayer and sort this set by descending price. It’s shocking how few expensive cards there are here, and it feels inevitable that the market will correct itself. We have proven reprints and unproven new cards both, all priced well below where they should be. There are only four cards in the set with an average price of over $5. That doesn’t seem right at all.

Vintage Masters

I’m so torn when it comes to MTGO in general and Vintage Masters specifically. On one hand, we have the best game ever made, and on the other hand, we have two separate, barely-functional clients, both of which look and feel about 15 years out of date.

As of two months ago, I was very much in the mode of drafting on MTGO every day, sometimes multiple times. But then MTGO crashed during the finals of a draft and lost me over ten minutes of clock. I ended up losing because of it and was denied compensation under WOTC’s policies. This turned me off in a big way, and in the two months since, I’ve drafted on MTGO only four times: two JNT drafts and two Cube drafts.

I assumed one of those formats would relight my fire for MTGO, but I’m just not feeling it so far. With Vintage Masters coming, I was sure that I would be psyched beyond belief and completely ready to start amassing cards for a Vintage deck. But alas, I’m still not ready to jump back into Magic Online.

Whether or not this set is “worth it” as far as what cards are in it versus its price, I’m not currently planning to do any Vintage Masters drafts. There are a few reasons:

  1. An MSRP of $6.99 a pack seems like a cash grab. This set is not redeemable and costs Wizards no more money to run on MTGO than a normal set. It’s already iffy that packs cost the same on MTGO as in paper Magic, and it was especially hard to swallow with Modern Masters. In this case, there isn’t even a paper analogue to justify this higher price.
  2. A “special” rarity for Power just exacerbates the problem of the higher-priced packs. If the moxen had been printed at mythic rare, it would have been easier to stomach the high MSRP, but here we see WOTC essentially double-dipping: you need to open more packs than normal to get the best cards, but you also pay twice as much per pack!
  3. Ostensibly the idea of drafting this set is to get you started on building a Vintage deck. Don’t get me wrong: this would be a dream come true. But with two unstable clients, an uncertain future about MTGO’s stability, and the potential market crash that may be caused by the permanent switch to the Beta, I’m extremely hesitant to start dumping hundreds (thousands is probably more accurate) of dollars into this ambiguous landscape.

If this turns out to be one of the best Limited environments in recent memory, I’ll probably change my tune. But as it stands right now, MTGO is a huge disappointment on a number of levels, and I’m not prepared to put money into a system that has caused me so much frustration.

Like most players, I’m eager for the MTGO landscape to improve to the level of the paper game that warranted its creation. In my dream world, I could play MTGO on my phone. Even Duels of the Planeswalkers on a smartphone would be great. SolForge has already made this happen and it’s a brand new game!

There are a lot of opinions on what we can do as players to speed along improvements in MTGO. I’m not sure which is right. For my part, I’m playing less MTGO these days than I have since I downloaded the program.

Part of this is protest, sure, but the larger part is that the unstable clients, long wait times, and questionable policies have just pushed me away. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last. I would love to be able to play Magic at my convenience. And considering the income this game generates, I have to wonder: why can’t I?

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Insider: Odds and Ends

  1. Your 1st point about VMA on MTGO seems strange. Pointing out there is no paper analog to VMA? Well, there is no perfect analog, as that would be impossible as per WoTC’s reprint policy.

    If there was a paper set where you could draft power, what do you think the price of that set would be on the secondary market? What would it cost to booster draft with some Unlimited packs? Obviously drafting unlimited booster packs would be very expensive if not impossible. But drafting a hypothetical paper VMA? The packs would be going much much higher than 6.99, that’s for sure.

    Decrying the price is fine, it probably just means that VMA is not for you. But comparing to IRL is not a good comparison in this case. No where else will you be able to draft power and keep it, even if it’s just a digital copy. How much should WotC charge for that? Well, they charge what they can, and 6.99 seems like a bargain.

    1. Gotta disagree with you Matt- Danny is spot on in his reasons to stay away from VMA. WOTC has already released Masters Editions on MODO that were regular priced packs full of dual lands and other goodies, and the world did not end. VMA should be just another Masters Edition set, priced regularly, with or without moxes at a special rarity. Players have already had plenty of opportunity to draft with moxes in cube, and adding the near impossibility of pulling a mox should not increase the price of a draft 3 bucks a pack. I was actually excited to draft this set, until I realized the cost of a draft. It’s one thing to draft Modern Masters, where the cards you open are for a somewhat relevant format that sees some play, versus a VMA draft, where the cards outside of nostalgia, are largely useless.

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